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Panic attacks are an acute anxiety symptom and can begin for a number of reasons:
- long-term stress
- health worries
- during a mild illness
- because of difficult emotions
- out of the blue
I find it helpful to think in terms of an Activating event (Physical symptom, something someone does/says, something you experience) and your Belief (what you tell yourself about what's happening) combine to form the trigger for your response (the Consequence).
This being the case, when combined with the wrong set of irrational thoughts, anything you experience can give rise to a panic attack.
Panic attacks are kept going because of the vicious circle of
- physical symptoms
By avoiding, escaping or preventing panic attacks, you may
- never find out that nothing terrible was going to happen
- dread going back into the situation, because you fear another attack
- lose confidence in your ability to cope alone
I usually begin by teaching some basic relaxation and breathing techniques to help bring the symptoms under control and go on to explore other strategies that can help in the medium and longer term.